Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Importance of a PLN

Yesterday I made a new ‘friend’, thanks to the wonderful PLN I have created on Twitter.  A while ago I touched on the value of Twitter, but I feel I need to revisit the topic of a PLN again, because only now am I really beginning to see its true value.  I am now of the opinion that a PLN, or Personal Learning Network, is of utmost importance if one is to keep abreast of what is happening in education around the world.  If we are to keep up with trends, read the latest thoughts on issues in education and keep up with ICT developments world-wide, then a PLN is a MUST!

As I have mentioned before, I joined Twitter about two years ago, and then I started searching for people in the same line of education – ICT integration.  Before long I was following an array of people who ranged from specialists in the field, to regular teachers like myself, people with a passion for ICT and a love of social networking!  Well, it
has certainly worked for me! In the past two years I have learnt more, discovered more new things and ‘met’ more people, than I ever thought possible.  All thanks to the wonderful people in my PLN! I am following people in South Africa, America, Germany, England, Australia, Spain, France and most recently, Romania!

That brings me back to my newest ‘friend’ – @bucharesttutor.  This young man saw an appeal I had made for Maths websites and Cricket World Cup lessons, and in a jiffy he connected with me, and sent me
a list of links which I will now share with my fellow teachers.  He is based in Bucharest, Romania and is a qualified Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry private tutor who teaches all grades.  How amazing is that?

Through my Twitter connections, I have started following the blogs of a number of these wonderful people. I now don’t know what I would do without my amazing PLN – each day I learn more and more from them and I look forward to reading their latest offerings.  I am also hoping to meet one or two of these lovely people at the Intel ICT in the Classroom Conference, in Johannesburg, in July!  I know that @nharm (Naomi Harm from Wisconsin, USA is one of the international presenters – I met her at the same conference in Durban in 2009).

Please understand that Twitter is not the only way to create a PLN!  It was my tool for creating connections, but there are various other ways such as Facebook, joining Ning communities relating to your interests, and other networking tools.

 My advice to you then?  Get networking!!

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Story Time!

Our Grade 6’s are writing stories for the Grade 2’s and Grade 3’s.  Working in pairs they have had to come up with an age-appropriate story which they have to illustrate too.  The Grade 6’s have done this in the past, but this year we are taking the task a little further.  These stories will be created in PowerPoint and then saved as PDFs.  From there we will upload them to Youblisher (see previous post dated 10/11/2010), to create ebooks.  I have shown the children examples of what these books look like and they are very excited to be using this wonderful tool. 
I have created a Grade 6 Wiki with a page per class and I will embed these stories into the Wiki.  I then plan to ‘advertise’ these stories to my Twitter PLN in the hope that other classes from around the world will pop in and read the stories and make comments (positive ones, I hope!).  This project excites me and I know the children are excited too – fact, I have a Grade 6 class  in the lab as I type, and there is a buzz second to none going on in there!

A Very Important Document

When our chilren are enrolled at our school their parents sign an Acceptable Use Policy which covers their children’s use of the schools IT equipment, the internet, email etc. Since this is signed for on their behalf and the wording is aimed at adults, it means absolutely nothing the children who will be using the equipment. So, each year I start off the year with an orientation lesson covering log-in procedures, usernames, passwords, use of the IT Centre and the equipment etc. Then I make them sign a child-friendly version of the AUP their parents have signed. It’s a basic and simpler version (covering my classroom rules), but the children take it seriously and for the Grade 4’s it is a highlight beacuse they get to design and use their own signature for the first time! The AUP is dated and pasted into their ICT books, where we can refer to it during the year if we need to. I tell them that it is a ‘legal’ document which binds them into good behaviour and respect for property which does not belong to them. I have done this for five years now and it seems to work, because we have had no issues and the school’s property is beautifully looked after and in surprisingly good shape after continuous use and high volume in the IT Centre.

A Fun Way to Start the Year!

Gosh, it’s February already and this is my first post of the year! Just testament to how hectic the beginning of an academic year is and how one has to prioritise. I have been meaning to write a new post, but each day something more important cropped up and my blog had to go on the back burner. But, here I am, very happy to be online again – and I wish you all the very best year ever!

One often looks for an ice breaker when meeting a new class for the first time, so I came up with a little quiz for the children to take part in. I called it the IT Centre Quiz and I came up with 20 questions relating to what I had discussed with them in previous lesson (the first lesson of the year – orientation), as well as the displays (posters, information sheets, logging in tips etc.) I have displayed around the IT Centre. This meant that the children had to listen and use ther eyes well – it was in essence a scavenger hunt! I dangled a prize as a carrot – a voucher to spend R10 at the tuck shop, so there was an incentive to do well and look carefully. They had to record their answers on an answer sheet and the prize was awarded to the first child to get full marks or the highest mark in each class.
Strictly, it wan’t an ice breaker, since I used it in my second lesson, but since I had included questions about the first lesson in the Quiz, I had to use it my second lesson. It was, however, a very successful activity, enjoyed by all – and they learnt something in the process!